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Big 12, ESPN deal not done

By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby knows the conference’s new television contract with ESPN will be a great deal.

But it’s not a done deal.

In May, the league and ESPN reached a verbal agreement, according to media reports, for the league’s first-tier rights. That 13-year deal, along with an already signed contract with Fox for the Big 12’s second-tier rights, were to provide the conference with about $2.6 billion in revenue through 2025, or about $20 million annually per school.

But the details are still being hammered out.

“I would suggest to you that having two media companies (ESPN, Fox), 10 presidents, 10 general counsels and 10 athletic directors, who generally speaking have editorial veto authority over the preparation of the documents, as a complex environment is the understatement of the year,” Bowlsby said.

But Bowlsby is optimistic a deal with soon be signed, which will include a 13-year grant-of-rights.

“It’s going to be unprecedented national exposure for our conference, and it will be remarkable in the breadth and depth of the reach that we will have in the course of the coming decade.”

And the money, that’s a good thing, too.

“With the revenue that is derived from a major media contract, we are headed for a period of stability,” Bowlsby said.

Bowlsby on other issues:

*Don’t expect expansion.

“I don’t know that we’d get two votes for moving to a larger number. Now, having said that, expansion is on every conference’s list of discussion items. I don’t think we can ever afford not to think about it. But if the Big 12 had to vote on it today, we wouldn’t take any new members in.

“We believe it should be very difficult to get into this group of institutions. It should be the toughest fraternity in America to join, and only the people that have a chance to join it are those that bring something this very substantial.”

*Bowlsby surprised outgoing acting commissioner Chuck Neinas with an announcement. The Big 12 is naming its coach of the year award for him. It’s the first football award to have a namesake.

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